New Mexico’s Pueblo indigenous people cultures are known for their unique apartment-like dwelling villages constructed of adobe, which were often constructed on rock ledges or steep-sided mesas. Today, a large number of national parks, monuments, and heritage sites preserve the ruins historic indigenous villages and Spanish missions throughout the region.

We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1.Abo Ruins Salinas National Monument

Abo Ruins Salinas National Monument
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Abó Ruins are part of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which preserves a complex of three historic Spanish missions near the city of Mountainair. While use of the site is believed to date back to the 14th century as a major trading station, its first recorded use was in 1583, when it was visited by Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo. In 1622, the site was designated for use as Mission of San Gregoiro de Abó, which was constructed seven years later and served a population of more than 1,600 Pueblo indigenous people at its peak. Today, the site features a visitor center showcasing museum exhibits and two educational trails offering access to important ruins. Ranger-led petroglyph tours are available with advance reservations.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, PO Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517, Phone: 505-847-2585

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2. Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument
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Aztec Ruins National Monument is located near the Animas River and the city of Farmington, approximately nine miles from the Salmon Ruins. The ruins date back as far as the 11th century and showcase Ancestral Puebloan structures. Their name is derived from their discovery in the 19th century by European settlers, who mistakenly believed they had found an ancient Aztec site. Today, the site is included as part of the Chaco Culture UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a stop on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. A visitor center is offered, along with a self-guided visitor educational trail touring site reconstructions, a heritage garden and native plants walk, and a pedestrian river bridge designated as part of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

725 Ruins Road, Aztec, NM 87410, Phone: 505-334-6174

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3. Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument
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Bandelier National Monument preserves more than 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa terrain surrounding a former Ancestral Pueblo settlement that was inhabited between 1150 and 1550. Following droughts that exacerbated the lack of arable land in the region, the Pueblo moved to the Rio Grande region, where their descendants became known as the Cochiti Pueblo. Today, the monument preserves village site excavations and petroglyphs at Frijoles Canyon and Tsankawi, which are accessible via several self-guided nature trails. A visitor center offers exhibits and a short documentary film, and ranger-led programming provides further information in the form of walk and talk events, campfire gatherings, and night sky programs. Single and multi-day backcountry hiking permits are also available upon request.

15 Entrance RD, Los Alamos, NM 87544, Phone: 505-672-3861

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4.Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical Park
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Chaco Culture National Historical Park preserves a major Ancestral Puebloan cultural center within Chaco Canyon that flourished between 850 and 1250. A large number of great houses were constructed throughout the ninth century, and by 1050, the site had become the central ceremonial and economic site of the San Juan Basin region. Though the exact purpose of many of its structures is not known, the site is viewed by modern Southwest indigenous people as an important spiritual site. The site was established as a National Historical Park in 1907, and in 2013, the park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park. A visitor center is offered, along with a self-guided Canyon Loop Drive trail showcasing six historic sites and four backcountry trails leading to more obscure sites. A campground and ranger-led astronomy, solar viewing, and walk and talk programming is also available.

PO Box 220, Nageezi, NM 87037, Phone: 505-786-7014

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5. El Morro National Monument

El Morro National Monument
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El Morro National Monument preserves a historic watering hole that served as a campsite for Ancestral Puebloan, Spanish, and American travelers throughout the American Southwest. Petroglyphs and carvings at the monument highlight more than 2,000 signatures, messages, and dates marking travels. Today, the site offers a visitor center that showcases a 15-minute documentary and historical exhibits on the cultures of the Southwest. An Inscription Trail showcases the site’s carvings, while a two-mile Headland Trail provides access to the Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Atsinna, which were constructed in 1275 by ancestors of the Zuni indigenous people and stand high above the monument atop a nearby cuesta.

HC 61 Box 43, Ramah, NM 87321, Phone: 505-783-4226

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6. Fort Union National Monument

Fort Union National Monument
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Fort Union National Monument is located in Mora County near the city of Watrous and preserves the historic Fort Union, which was constructed in 1851 as the second of three forts that stood in the region. Ruins of the third fort are also preserved, along with a network of ruts from the Cimarron and Mountain portions of the former Santa Fe Trail. The National Monument, which was established in 1954, offers a visitor center with museum exhibits and a documentary film about the history of the Santa Fe Trail. 0.5 and 1.25-mile self-guided interpretive trails are available, showcasing the fort’s adobe ruins, and park interpretive programming is offered regularly, including guided talks and tours and night sky star parties.

PO Box 127, Watrous, NM 87753, Phone: 505-425-8025

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7. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument preserves the Mogollon cliff dwellings at the Gila Wilderness, located near the Gila River and Silver City. Two Mimbres Culture ruins sites, Cliff Dweller Canyon and TJ Ruins, are showcased throughout the monument, which also protects 553 acres of surrounding wilderness. The park was established in 1907 following the ruins’ discovery in 1878 by Silver City resident Henry B. Ailman. A museum showcasing Apache and Mogollon artifacts is offered at the park’s visitor center, along with a mile-long trail loop providing visitor access to the ruins. A mummified infant body discovered at the site, known as Zeke, is also on display at the Smithsonian Museum.

26 Jim Bradford Trail, Mimbres, NM 88049, Phone: 575-536-9461

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8.Jemez Historic Site

Jemez Historic Site
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Jemez Historic Site is located near the cities of Albuquerque and Bernalillo and preserves the stone ruins of the Jemez Pueblo village of Giusewa, which dates back at least 500 years and was named in honor of the region’s hot springs. The remains of the short-lived San José de los Jemez Spanish Catholic mission, which was constructed in 1621, are also preserved at the site. Though the church was abandoned in 1640, its remains are noted for their massive size, unique octagonal bell tower, and colorful frescos. A heritage center at the site showcases the history of the Jemez people through a variety of exhibits, while a 1,400-foot interpretive trail offers access to the site’s ruins.

PO Box 143 Jemez Springs, NM 87025, Phone: 575-829-3530

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9.Pecos National Historic Park

Pecos National Historic Park
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Pecos National Historical Park is located within San Miguel and Santa Fe Counties, approximately 17 miles east of the city of Santa Fe. It protects an area of more than 6,600 acres of historical significance, including the ruins of the Pecos Pueblo village, which housed more than 2,000 people at its peak in 1450. The 17th-century Spanish Catholic Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos is also preserved, and both sites are accessible via a 1.25-mile self-guided interpretive trail. Other sites preserved include the 1920s-era Forked Lightning Ranch, the Civil War-era Glorieta Pass Battlefield, and portions of the Old Santa Fe Trail.

P.O. Box 418, Pecos, NM 87552, Phone: 505-757-7241

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10.Quarai Mission Ruins

Quarai Mission Ruins
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Quarai Mission Ruins, which are also referred to as Quarai State Monument, are incorporated as part of the larger Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which preserves three historic mission ruin sites near Mountainair. The site was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and preserves the archaeological remains of a Quarai Pueblo settlement that is believed to have been constructed around 1300. By the arrival of European settlers in the area, large pueblo compounds had been constructed at the site, which are visible as ruins today. The site also preserves the Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai Spanish Catholic mission, which was constructed in 1632 and abandoned in 1675 following attacks by Aztec groups.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, PO Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517, Phone: 505-847-2585

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11.Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
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Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument preserves three historic Spanish Catholic missions that were constructed in the Mountainair region between 1622 and 1635. It was established in 1909 as Gran Quivira National Monument to preserve the ruins of the historic Gran Quivira mission, one of the most celebrated mission ruin sites in the American Southwest and the largest Christian church ruin site in the United States. Today, the park’s Abó unit also preserves the Mission of San Gregoiro de Abó, while its Quarai unit centers on the Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai mission. Several visitor centers and interpretive trails are offered throughout the park, providing historical context and access to ruin sites.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, PO Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517, Phone: 505-847-2585

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12.Salmon Ruins Museum

Salmon Ruins Museum
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Salmon Ruins Museum preserves an important Chacoan and Pueblo archaeological site that was constructed around 1090 and occupied until the 1280s, when it was severely damaged by fire. It is located along the banks of the San Juan River near the city of Bloomfield and was excavated as part of a series of archaeological efforts in the 1970s supported by Eastern New Mexico University and the San Juan County Museum Association. Today, the Salmon Ruins Museum showcases a variety of permanent and temporary rotating exhibits related to Chacoan and Pueblo culture, including important artifacts discovered as part of excavations. A heritage park also showcases replica indigenous dwellings, sweat lodges, and trading posts, and an amphitheater is available for private special event rental.

P. O. Box 125, Bloomfield, New Mexico 87413, Phone: 505-632-2013

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13.Guadalupe Ruins

Guadalupe Ruins
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Isolated on a 200-foot-tall sandstone mesa in the Rio Puerco Valley, the unique Guadalupe Ruins were formerly the easternmost outlier of the historic Chacoan society. Although the Puebloan society was mostly centered in the Chaco Canyon, they had several outlier colonies across the ancient Southwest. The Guadalupe ruins used to be a single-story masonry pueblo and great house with almost 40 rooms and seven ceremonial rooms known as “kivas”. The site is about a two-hour drive from Albuquerque followed by a short hike to the mesa. The climb up may be steep, but the inspiring ruins and impressive scenic views make it well worth the effort.

100 Sun Avenue NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109, Phone: 505-761-8700

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14.San Lazaro Pubels Ruins

San Lazaro Pubels Ruins
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Formerly a thriving pueblo in the Galisteo Basin, San Lazaro Pubels Ruins was abandoned by its community in the late 1600s. This national historic landmark was the home to a Tano Indian community for nearly 400 years beginning in the 13th century. The community played a significant role in history from the pre-contact to Spanish colonization eras, even participating in the successful Pueblo Revolt of 1680. However, when the Spanish returned 12 years later, the Tano deserted the pueblo to join western pueblo communities. The ruins went through several excavations by organizations such as the American Museum of Natural History. Nearly 2,000 ground-floor rooms, a kiva, and the San Lazaro church were found through the years of excavation.

Los Cerrillos, New Mexico 87010, Phone: 505-438-7454

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15.Puye Cliff Dwellings

Puye Cliff Dwellings
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Nestled in the heart of northern New Mexico, the Puye Cliff Dwellings are rich in Native American culture and heritage. The dwellings were formerly inhabited by over 1,500 ancient Santa Clara Pueblo Indians from the 900s to 1500s. Several tours are available to explore different aspects of the historic landmark. The Puye Cliff Dwellings Tour uncovers the ancient community’s everyday life with viewings of the masonry dwellings, cave dwellings, and ancient petroglyph drawings. On the other hand, the Mesa Top Tour explores the ceremonial kiva structure and central plaza. Visitors may also join the Roadrunner Trail tour, which begins with a 100-yard hike to the face of the cliff followed by viewings of the cliff dwellings. Finally, the Adventure Tour combines all three tours for a comprehensive excursion through the ruins.

Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544, Phone: 505-917-6650

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16.Una Vida

Una Vida
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Known as one of the oldest great houses in New Mexico, some portions of the Una Vida ruins date as far back as the 800s, with other portions dating to 1100. Its name, which means “one life” in Spanish, perfectly encapsulates the essence of what was likely a very tight-knit historic community. With about 160 masonry rooms, four kivas, and one or two great kivas, Una Vida was the fifth largest great house discovered in the Fajada Gap canyon. The ruins were partially excavated by Gordon Vivian of the National Park Service in the 1950s, then later completely cleared and mapped out in 1987.

Path to Una Vida, Nageezi, New Mexico 87037

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17.Coronado Historic Site

Coronado Historic Site
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Inhabited for thousands of years by the Tiwa Indians, the Kuaua Pueblo ruins in Bernalillo date as far back as the 1300s. The site was named after Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, a Spanish explorer who came across the pueblo and other Tiwa-speaking villages. Coronado and his allies survived their exploration thanks to goods obtained from these prosperous farming communities. Unfortunately, due to conflict with the Spanish, the Tiwa Indians abandoned the pueblo about a century after first contact. Descendants of the Tiwa Indians still exist today in villages like Taos, Sandia, and Isleta. Visitors are welcome to stop by and see the historic ruins, which include a ceremonial chamber, several mural paintings and artifacts, and amazing views of the Rio Grande and the Sandia Mountains.

485 Kuaua Road, Bernalillo, New Mexico 87004, Phone: 505-867-5351

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18.Pueblo del Arroyo

Pueblo del Arroyo
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Unlike other great houses in the Chaco Canyon, Pueblo del Arroyo is one of the area’s most delicately located great houses. The pueblo was built facing the eastern side of the cliff, having to endure the threat of erosion from past floodwaters in the Chaco Wash. It was one of the largest Chacoan great houses, standing four stories high with about 300 rooms and 17 ceremonial kivas. The Pueblo del Arroyo was also the only Chaco Canyon structure to feature a tri-wall structure. This historic pueblo dates back to the 1060s with portions later added in the next century. A total of two excavations were carried out to uncover this inspiring site: first in 1923 by the National Geographic Expedition, followed by the National Park Service in 1950.

NM-57, Nageezi, New Mexico 87037

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19.Kiowa National Grassland

Kiowa National Grassland
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Hidden within a seemingly empty flat plain off Route 39, the Kiowa National Grassland is home to a unique set of ruins. As visitors roam the grassland and camping grounds, they’ll be surprised to come across a canyon created over thousands of years by the Canadian River. Within the canyon, hikers can find ruins from an old orchard that was wiped out by a flood in 1904. The previous owner, entrepreneur Melvin Mills, was drawn by the beauty of the canyon’s surroundings but chose not to rebuild the orchard. While it may not be as popular or well preserved as other New Mexican ruins, the beautiful terrain and snaking Canadian River definitely make this serene site worth the visit.

Mills Canyon Road, Mills, New Mexico 87730

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20 Best New Mexico Ruins to See on Vacation

More Ideas in NM: El Santuario de Chimayo Historic Site

The El Santuario de Chimayo Historic Site is managed by the Sons of the Holy Family, and is part of a compound that consists of two historically significant buildings. El Santuario de Chimayo is a small shrine that was constructed on the location of what is believed by many to have been a miracle related to the crucifix of "Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas," or "Our Lord of Esquipulas." The shrine is also the site of the small hole of Holy Dirt, or "el pocito," which many people believe possesses astounding curative powers.

The legend is that the Santuario de Chimayo, or also known as the Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, was constructed after a local friar saw a strange light coming from a hillside close to the Santa Cruz River while performing penances. Out of curiosity, the friar looked for the light's source. He dropped to his knees and began to dig in the soil with his hands and found a crucifix, which he later christened Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas.

The crucifix was taken to the neighboring village three times in procession, and somehow disappeared all three times. Each time it disappeared, it was later found back on the hillside in the hole of dirt in which it was originally found. It was decided that Nuestro Señor de Esquipula desired to stay in the village of Chimayo, so the people built a small shrine on top of the hole where the crucifix was discovered.

Miraculous healings began soon after the small chapel's construction, and the original chapel was replaced by the present-day Santuario by 1816. People began to attribute the healings in Chimayo over the years to the sandy soil in which the crucifix was found, rather than the crucifix itself. The "blessed earth" or "tierra bendita" was made into a paste to put on afflicted parts of the body, dissolved into water to drink, or eaten. This hole, or "el pocito," can still be seen today at the El Santuario de Chimayo Historic Site. Almost every visitor to El Santuario de Chimayo Historic Site visit the small, candle-lit room.

Within a short walking distance from El Santuario de Chimayo is the other building contained within the compound, the Shrine of Santa Niño de Atocha. This shrine was first constructed in 1856, and is the site of what is a growing and strong tradition now spanning across several generations. The shrine has been an Easter pilgrimage for many people. It first started with the sailors and soldiers of the United States who came to the shrine to pray to the Santo Niño during the Bataan Death March. After returning to the United States, these servicemen began their pilgrimage to Chimayo, the site of a number of Santa Niño, to give their thanks for their return to America, as well as in memory of the suffering that occurred. This tradition now encompasses several thousand people of all walks of life and all faiths.

15 Santuario Drive, Chimayo, NM, Phone: 505-351-1000


More Things to Do in New Mexico

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More Ideas in NM: Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

Situated in the center of Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History is one of the Southwest’s leading institutions for history, art, and culture. With support from the Albuquerque Museum Foundation, Cultural Services Department, and City of Albuquerque, the museum brings its guests right to a celebration of people, history and art through local, regional, national and international exhibitions.

Visitors will enjoy an immersion in art or history – the museum has collections of both types – and an immersion in the city’s premier cultural institution, which features The Gutiérrez-Minge House, also known as the historic Casa San Ysidro, to be found Corrales, a bit north of the city.

The History Collection is comprised of some 26,000 images and objects, which interpret the history of the Greater Albuquerque area and the central Rio Grande Valley. The essential collection of about 1000 objects was collected from the 1940s up to 1967 by the Albuquerque Historical Society (AHS) and then donated to the city. This collection features Anglo-American, Native American, and Hispanic artifacts that are related to the most important families of the city. The AHS collection includes personal artifacts, household furnishings, and clothing.

Through donations and purchases of materials significant to the general interpretation of the environs, the collection has been expanded to include Pueblo and Navajo blankets, and nineteenth-century ranch and farm material, historic building elements and hardware, plus carpentry tools.

Collected by Albuquerque High School and the Albuquerque Archaeological Society in the mid-20th century, the History Collection includes archaeological materials from sites in the middle Rio Grande Valley, including Tonque Pueblo, plus pottery from the Four Corners area and Mimbres Valley. The collection features significant purchases made during a move to acquire artifacts. These include early European maps of New Spain and vital samples of Rio Grande pottery, weaving and metalwork.

The museum possesses Colonial Period European armor, which is widely viewed as one of country’s top five collections of its type. Central to the collection are materials pertaining to when Albuquerque was founded.

The History Collection also includes some 1,400 examples of Hispanic and Pueblo weavings and pottery, furniture, architectural elements, religious art, household tools and hardware, jewelry, plus historic photographs and a transportation collection from the Minge Collection at Casa San Ysidro. The Minge Collection is known to be one of the country’s best collections of eighteenth-to-nineteenth-century New Mexican artifacts. The museum’s photo archives feature about 123,000 ephemera and images that capture the city and central Rio Grande Valley as far back as 1860 to the present.

The Art Collection

Some 7,000 works of art comprise the museum’s Art Collection, which centers on American Southwest art and its influences. Each of the area’s cultural groups is represented, plus media from the Territorial period to the present.

Common Ground is an exhibition of the permanent collection, emphasizing visual continuities and innovations in the region, beginning with Native American traditions, along to European work by Mexican and Spanish colonial settlers, to contemporary work.

This permanent collection exhibition includes Native American ceramics and jewelry; Hispanic domestic and religious folk arts; paintings and documentary sketches from Territorial-era exploration; masterpieces from late nineteenth to early twentieth century Taos and Santa Fe artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Ernest Blumenschein, and John Sloan; and contemporary reflections on landscape, land, and regional cultures by Fritz Scholder, Luis Tapia, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, among others. This historical survey ends with an introduction to modern pieces.

Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque Poet Laureate, in January 2013, presented poems he had composed, which were based on artwork in this exhibition.

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Sculpture Garden

This is mostly an outdoor exhibit that features more than 60 pieces, which explore media, themes, and techniques by leading regional sculptors – among them Nora Naranjo-Morse, Luis Jimenez, and Alan Houser.

Only in Albuquerque

This ongoing exhibition is the result of years of work. In it, the museum presents an interactive presentation of the culture and history of the central Rio Grande Valley. Besides community stories, visitors will find much to do. There is an opportunity to make a personal Coat of Arms; send a postcard reminiscent of Route 66 electronically to family or friends; create a unique “quilt” of Museum images; and record a personal story to share in the Museum and with friends.

This exhibit features an expanded story of Albuquerque, dating from before written history to the present – set in an interactive environment.

The story is conveyed via four separate galleries: Spirited, Courageous, Resourceful, andInnovative. These connect to a central gallery, Our Land. This particular design gives visitors a physical layout that relates to a central theme: how various cultures interact with each other in a one-of-a kind environmental setting, and have developed shared characteristics that are particular to the middle Río Grande Valley and Albuquerque. Visitors will see hundreds of city artifacts.

Hard Edge Abstraction was a global art movement that came to the forefront in the 1960s. It had its origins in earlier modern art, and does influence today’s artists. These pieces give the guest the opportunity to perceive the qualities these artists value: simplicity, bold colors, and vibrant compositions. We might even realize that “realism” is actually quite abstract, a mental trick; so-called “abstract art” can be considered much more literally “real.” The work is essentially just what it is.

Sometime around 100 years back, European artists created a revolutionary approach to art making. These modern artists gave realization to the concept that painting (and printmaking) didn’t need to be limited to reproducing an illusion of the outside world. It could depict an “inner” world of feeling and emotion, imagined ethereal dimensions, or even just be about the process and mechanics of the work itself.

Faithful Albuquerque: Twenty-five Churches

This ongoing exhibit includes 25 images of early churches in the Rio Grande Valley from the museum's archived collection of photographs. By 1930, Albuquerque had 40 houses of worship, including one synagogue.

San Felipe de Neri is the oldest surviving church and it resides in Old Town was finished in 1793. Another church, San Francisco Xavier, which is no longer standing, was constructed in 1719.

These images demonstrate the range of the churches’ architecture. As the city flourished, churches were built to reflect stylistic ideals.

Casa San Ysidro

The Gutiérrez/Minge House

Visitors to Casa San Ysidro will be able to study the tools, furnishings, and art used in about 1875 by New Mexicans. As far as New Mexican art and furnishing collections go, it is widely viewed as one of the world’s most comprehensive collections.

The home has been restored and expanded. It combines architectural features and traditional building techniques that make one imagine New Mexico’s Spanish Colonial past. Casa San Ysidro is on the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail and is listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties. Different types of tours and programs open up this house to the visitor.

Museum Store

The Museum Store offers a collection of unique gifts, catalogs, jewelry, and books, plus items from local artists. Museum members receive 10% off museum store purchases.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Albuquerque, NM.

2000 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, Phone: 505-243-7255

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